Fortune-Telling Parrots Mostly Out Of Business But Trouble Spots Remain

Two new reports about India’s fortune-telling parrots have been released today. On one side, we’re hearing good news that the illegal practice of requiring rose-ringed parakeets to help fortune-tellers read the future is coming to a close.

On the other side, we’re reading a surprisingly sympathetic interview in today’s Hindu Times with some of the fortune-tellers who work near a temple in Madurai.

Earlier this summer, Hyderabad, India’s Wildlife Crime Control Bureau said that they were cracking down on the illegal practice of using captive rose-ringed parakeets to assist in fortune-telling. In early June, the authorities seized 220 of the birds.

Fortune-tellers have been using the parrots to help them read the future. The birds have also been nicknamed astrologer parrots or Tarot-reading parrots. What they often do is pick the cards that the human fortune-teller then interprets to predict the future.

I have an extended article including some video of working fortune-telling parrots here.

But the short version is that it’s illegal to cage parrots in India under a 1972 law.

Today, the World Parrot Trust Facebook page shared an update from the Visakha Society of Protection and Care of Animals (VSPCA).

VSPCA said that they have continued to raid fortune-tellers every Sunday, especially at popular tourist spots like beaches. Because of the constant raids, most alert fortune-tellers have stopped using the parrots:

“We have convinced them to use their brains and occult sciences to read the future of a person and they now come with their books and read through. We are almost there to stop this menace 100% in this region.”

As you can see from the photo below, the fortune-telling parrots are usually kept confined in tiny, portable cages. Some of the 220 birds seized in June were chained and had injuries to their legs.

The bird in this photo from VSPCA has damaged wings:

fortune-telling parrots crackdown
a fortune-telling parrot victim photo courtesy VSPCA Facebook page

But the news isn’t all good. The Hindu Times story on the fortune-telling parrots described an active site near a temple where the birds are still being put to work.

The fortune-telling is described as a traditional practice performed mostly by older men, many of whom don’t speak English or want their children to take up the business. That’s probably true.

But the working bird in their photo certainly didn’t help make the case for the tradition. Its tail was completely gone, presumably destroyed by long confinement to a too-small cage.

At the time of writing, the article didn’t mention that caging and working the birds like this is illegal in India.

One commenter said, “[T]hese wild birds…are forced to live in cages so tiny that they have no room to even move, turn around or flap their wings! Look at the parrot in the picture it has no tail cause the cage is so tiny and small that they can’t grow tail feathers!!”

Clearly, some people including some journalists still haven’t got the word about the legal crackdown on fortune-telling parrots.

[rose-ringed parakeet top photo by J.M. Garg via Wikimedia]